Photographer and educator Ted Forbes from the Art of Photography YouTube Channel has published a nine-minute video on the subject of photo books, and how he believes that while they contain art, are also art themselves and are a cure for what many might see as the disease that is Instagram.
Forbes says he has a problem, and the problem is buying photo books before he’s even finished reading the ones he already has. To him, photo books are a wonderful way to interact with an artist because the book is a direct representation of what the photographer wants to convey, and how they want to convey it.
“Books are a passion of mine,” he says. “Unlike sitting there scrolling through social media, there are no likes, follower counts, there is no algorithm, there is no ads. At their best, books are a cohesive group of pictures. They are presented directly to you by an artist. You get a one-on-one interaction.”
Forbes says he buys a lot of books to study, to keep, and to revisit.
“This is where you find the language of photography. When you understand this language, you have an understanding of what has been done before you. What do you have to say? what does your book look like?”
Instagram, and arguably all social media, has altered the method by which a photographer can communicate with an audience. Forbes says that books, which are notably much less popular than any social media account, take so much time, effort, and consideration to put together that they will always be a much more valuable way to understand the mindset of any photographer.
“A well-composed book needs to feel like a symphony. Form, impact, and energy tell a well-crafted story and leave an impression on a reader. They are to be experienced,” Ted says.
Eventually, Ted wants to make his own book, but not for the reasons many people turn to social media. He doesn’t want to become famous, he doesn’t need an ego boost. He wants to do a book because he wants to be part of the history of photography and put himself there for personal reasons. In this sense, it doesn’t matter how many people see what he’s done or notice, but he is part of it all the same.
“Photography is a gift that we all participate in,” Forbes says. “I want my voice to be just one sentence in that large book of history — even if it’s only a short sentence. I want that to say ‘yes, I was here.'”
This video and discussion about photo books are uncommon these days but is a reflection on what photography as an art is and where it stands. How photographers see themselves, the art, and the passion of photography varies from person to person. For Ted, the value might be different than it is for any of his subscribers. But that’s ok: that’s the point of art.
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